Online Networking – the new first point of contact among professionals

Which of the following would you say is true?

  • It’s not who you know, it’s what you know
  • It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
  • It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you
Puzzled looking couple with index fingers pressed to lips.
Knowing we don’t know means we know we need experts who do.

Our experience at Ladders tells us that each has an element of truth. As connectivity evolved, uploading your contacts to your site of choice for online networking – friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, potential future colleagues, became a point of pride for many, and a status symbol for most. Number one, it showed you were digitally aware, up-to-date, professionally connected and well-thought of; a professional in a world of professionals.

Standing alone in an online space became increasingly odd; anti-social, even. And it didn’t make sense. Online networking, keeping in touch online, touching base, reaching out, and so on became increasingly the norm. Manners and rules of etiquette became established, as the potential for networking became an increasingly surefire route toward career advancement.

And with the increasing ease in which have-a-go applicants can submit job applications online, and one advancement in technology built to deal with that, namely Automated Hiring Software, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), spectacularly back-firing in major ways – (according to Harvard Business School), those involved in the hiring process are looking at how to guarantee great candidates. With 75 percent of US employers using Automated Hiring Software, including 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies, according to the linked study, that’s a big deal.

Drunken male surrounded by bottles, half asleep on a sofa.
“Yo! Wake me up when you’re ready to start the interview, yeah?”

At least 22,000 verified, high-end recruiters search Ladders members to fill their job openings, targeting their searches among our database of experts, scouring all the optimized resumes they see from qualified professionals. But many involved in the hiring process like nothing better than somebody within their organization recommending a professional to them – and that increasingly happens through online networking, easy access to experts already known and liked by trusted members of the team.

Uploading contacts and online networking was already competing against traditional forms of networking – social events, business events, etc. – long before COVID came crashing down upon us all. Today, it’s the first point of contact among many key professionals for obvious reasons and it’s something all professionals need to get to grips with. 

The basic rules shouldn’t be unfamiliar to anybody.

  1. Don’t reach out to people only to ask for something. Touch base with your fellow professionals when you can; if you can’t, don’t ask for a favor up front.
  2. Always ask about the other person – that shouldn’t need saying, but listen first, ask questions and pay attention, before bringing up the subject of you.
  3. Always thank new contacts for agreeing to become contacts – short and friendly and nothing else. Reaching out again will work better than any immediate ask.
  4. Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes before reaching out. How would you feel about the unexpected contact that’s about to happen from the recipient’s perspective? 
  5. Never express any negative feelings, regardless of any response you receive. Never. Don’t even think about it, let alone start typing it. Never ever hit “enter” too soon.

And if you are reaching out to somebody you’ve never contacted before, you’ll probably find that it’s about as difficult as physically approaching somebody you’ve never spoken to before. Think about what you’re about to say, no matter how simple the thought may be, and think about why you’re saying it. Then take a deep breath and be brave. Making new industry connections, gaining information about opportunities, or just becoming friendly and winding up with a referral, or giving a referral, can be rewarding and potentially life-changing.

Calendar with Post It sticker in the center saying "Start New Job!"
New career, new life – it all begins by reaching out.

In traditional networking, events, parties and other socially fun get-togethers were the context in which networking happened. That’s something you should keep in mind. Relationship building is an art that needs to be learned, because there’s so much potential in having contacts, growing your contacts list, and actively nurturing what you have, rather than simply working toward a 500+ sign on LinkedIn that’s designed to impress.

With your contacts uploaded to Ladders and thoughts of good manners, nurturing, and relationship-building in mind, your next career thought should be about all those recruiters despairing of their backfiring ATS software. Get your resume optimized free of charge, then upload that, too, and make sure you’re in the high-end talent pool they’re increasingly relying on to help make strong decisions in the right time frame.

One more issue that an online networking pro with an optimized resume, uploaded and in the recruiter talent pool, has is job applications. Limited time often means choosing which potential fits to go for: read the application, sign up to some third-party site, start filling in a long, tedious online job application form, regardless of your resume being at the ready. It’s a serious issue that can kill the best opportunities, because you don’t immediately see them as the best ones.

The solution for Ladders Premium members is Apply4Me. With the average job application form taking 18 minutes for our members, Apply4Me works by clicking the Apply4Me button once. With that, our team of experts take care of your applications on your behalf. And guess what? It works and has become so popular with members, we’ve introduced a Chrome download that allows it to be used across the internet.

In summary, giving your career an edge by following all the above steps can be easily achieved; they’re all perfectly straightforward and they’re all worth it – especially collectively, like a powerhouse career team. Your team. Because it’s important to remember when nothing seems to be happening in your job search – it will. Doing all of the above, one step at a time, dramatically raises your chances of receiving that out-of-the-blue job interview request that potentially changes everything.

Oh, and Ladders can help you with your interview, too. So it’s not really about who you know or who knows you – it’s about what you know and what you do.

And uploading your contacts is a great start.